Woodland, Calif. - The San Jose State University men’s soccer team has been picked to finish in a tie for third in the 2008 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation race in a preseason vote by the league’s six head coaches.
Head coach Gary St. Clair’s Spartans received 15 points to match UNLV’s total for the third spot. Four-time defending MPSF champion New Mexico is again the favorite, earning 24 points via four first-place votes. Denver, last year’s runner-up, is picked to place second again, with 22 points. The Pioneers garnered the remaining two first-place votes.
Sacramento State and Air Force were chosen fifth and sixth with eight and six points, respectively.
San Jose State was third in the MPSF in 2007, posting a winning overall mark of 10-9 and an even league record of 5-5. The Spartans had the 15th-most productive offense nationally in the NCAA Division I a year ago at 1.95 goals per game, finding opposing nets 37 times in their 19 matches. They bring back nine starters among 12 letterwinners, and six seniors in Sam Shore, Lewis Sweeney, Gavin Wenyon and tri-captains Hiroki Akiyama, Ed Brand and Richard Mann. Akiyama and Brand are returning second-team All-MPSF picks. Nick Cukar, who earned All-MPSF honorable mention as a sophomore in 2007, is San Jose State’s leading returning scorer, having tallied 14 points from six goals and two assists from his outside midfield position.
“The strength of the conference is way up,” remarks St. Clair. “New Mexico is as good as ever, Denver is much better, and UNLV is much better. Sacramento State is a bit of a question mark, and Air Force has got to be much better. We were third last year. This (preseason poll) basically reflects right here, with the exception of UNLV being below Sacramento State (a year ago), exactly how we finished.
“From my point of view, we had the two matches with Denver last year (both 2-1 losses in overtime) that were the season-deciding games for us. We could have won both of them, and should have probably when you look back at how well we performed in each. That’s a six-point swing, which would have put us right up there with New Mexico. So, I think that this (poll) is fair, but this is a game of performance. Talking, wishing and hoping is all well and good, but at the end of the day, you have to perform. When we perform like a number-one team, I’ll say so, but this is fair.”
San Jose State reports on Tuesday, August 12, and training camp opens the following morning with three straight days of three-a-day practices. The Spartans will host UC Santa Cruz in an exhibition game inside Spartan Stadium on Friday evening, August 22, at 5:00 p.m., before they officially kick off the 2008 campaign against Notre Dame de Namur on Spartan Field at 3:00 p.m. exactly one week later on Friday, August 29.
2008 MPSF Men’s Soccer Coaches’ Preseason Poll
Team - Points (first-place votes)
1. New Mexico - 24 (4)
2. Denver - 22 (2)
T3. San Jose State - 15
T3. UNLV - 15
5. Sacramento State - 8
6. Air Force - 6